Tag Archives: equine therapy

February Fun

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The shortest month of the year flew by at a record-breaking speed, despite that extra day tacked onto the end. Here is a look at the moments that filled the last 29 days…

Valentine’s Day was a low-key event at Patchwork Farm, but we did celebrate the love of family with a fun dinner at home. Two days before Valentine’s Day I made a stop at Dollar Tree to pick up white plates for each family member.

Using a black Sharpie I personalized each dinner plate with adjectives that best describe them and then baked the plates in the oven to set the ink permanently.

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It was a fun gift to prepare for my favorite Valentines.

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That night the table was set with everyone’s personalized plates and dolled up for the holiday with a bag of chocolates at each place.

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How grateful I am for these people I love!

Not long after that holiday… one filled with expressions of love and gifts of chocolate… I found myself with sweet treats on the brain once again…

It was Bake-off time! 

This past fall a family from church organized an ongoing social event that pitted bakers against each other. Those interested in competing were able to sign up and were given a date and time for their showdown against another family from church, but those who just wanted to enjoy an evening of taste-testing and talking could come out for the fun and help choose the victor. Winners from each round then would move on to the next round where they’d compete against other winners. 

Last week we found ourselves competing in the semi-finals with a peanut butter ice-cream cake paired with homemade hot fudge.

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It was a fun evening that catapulted us into round three of competition.

Molly now finds herself in the final countdown as she prepares to leave for 18 months to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These last 30 days are quickly filling up, as we work to accomplish all the tasks on her “to do” list while also trying to fit in visits with family and friends. 

A few weeks ago we traveled out to Ohio to visit my parents at the Homestead. While we were out there we also met up with my grandma for a visit. It has been such a treat having her so close. We are able to see her a lot more often than before and our visits are always a blast. How grateful I am for this special lady!

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We have also been able to fit in multiple temple trips. We set the goal of visiting the temple every other week. Often our temple trip is paired with a visit to Erie for Ozzie’s weekly family therapy session. From Erie we just keep heading north to Palmyra, NY temple for an evening session. 

On weeks that we can’t fit in 10 hours of driving, we will head to Columbus, Ohio.

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This past Saturday the youth had a temple trip scheduled. Molly and I joined Rusty for a day at the temple…and it was wonderful!

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Molly has also kept busy working and earning money for her mission. Rather than return to working as a waitress, as she did prior to college, she decided to work for Toby’s construction company as a laborer. It has been such a blessing for her. She loves the extra time she has had with her Daddy. They enjoy spending their days working side by side, and in the process she has learned some great skills, saved up the money she needs for her mission, while also freeing up her evenings for family time. In addition to Toby she also works with Zach, her brother-in-law, and two other great guys, Fernando and Hoggin. Here is Molly’s work family. She loves these guys:

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And every day she has a lunch date with this kid:

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While Molly was in Idaho Tyler struggled with her absence. His feelings of loss made talking to Molly on the phone too hard, and he chose to avoid all contact rather than feel the sadness that came with hearing her voice and missing her.

While Molly is on her mission we will have the opportunity to video chat with her every Monday (in addition to exchanging letters, packages, and emails.) This knowledge hasn’t helped Tyler accept her leaving for 18 months because he is certain he won’t be able to handle video chatting with her, even if she is allowed to call home every Monday.

So, to help him get more comfortable conversing with Molly in this way the two of them have started chatting every day during their lunch breaks via Facebook Messenger. The ability to use fun filters to talk face-to-face has lessened Tyler’s anxiety and helped increase his comfort level with video chatting. The hope is that by the time Molly leaves, this form of communication will feel comfortable and even natural, thanks to exposure therapy.

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Tyler is also keeping busy with some new gals in his life. These ones are of the four-hoofed variety. In addition to participating in equine therapy each week at Glade Run Adventures, he has begun working there as a volunteer. This is something he sought out independently. He wanted more time at the barn while helping out with the animals. Last month he completed his volunteer training and this month he began volunteering. He volunteers at the barn every Wednesday, prior to his therapy.

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He has been given a specific assignment at the barn. He is in charge of caring for the three little girls that call Glade Run Stables home. Every week he must walk the three mini residents in from the field and groom them. His three girls are Beauty (a mini horse), Bobbie Socks (a miniature cow), and Enchilada (the miniature donkey).

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He brings them in one at a time, grooms them and tucks them into their stalls for the night…

And he loves it! It has been a fun responsibility that is his alone and he does a great job.

 

So, there you go…just a small sampling of the comings and goings at Patchwork Farm this past February.

Now it is time to welcome in March!

 

 

 

 

Some other Stuff…

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Before I blog about the next few big events in our life, I thought I’d blog about some of the little things that have filled our days  in blessed ways. This also gives me an excuse to do a photo dump and clear some pictures off my phone!

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Here is the latest and greatest at Patchwork Farm…

Last week Molly received some unexpected, exciting news from her soon-to-be school, BYU-Idaho. As part of a photo challenge on Instagram, Molly submitted photos of her college decision announcement. Her photo was one of three chosen in the creative college announcement category. Her photo was featured on their Instagram page and Molly was the recipient of an prize package full of BYU-I gear. She was so excited!

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The boys continue to be blessed by the effects of equine therapy. They all love it and the progress they have made therapeutically at Glade Run Adventures is astounding. Tyler, Ozzie and Braden now ride together in a group session once a week. It has been fun to watch their growth, both in the area of equine skills and coping skills.

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Grace continues to glow, due in large part to the happiness she has found with Zach. We continue to see more and more of Zach, which is just fine with us. We love Zach and we love seeing Gracie so happy. 🙂

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He continues to seek out opportunities to support Grace, including joining our family for Sunday dinner.

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He was joined by the two missionaries who have been teaching Braden as he prepared for his baptism.

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On the night Zach joined us, dinner was followed by a spiritual lesson and fun game of Pictionary that was used to teach Braden the 10 commandments.

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It was a fun evening!

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Grace isn’t the only McCleery girl with her mind on a sweet fellow. This past week Molly asked her best guy friend, Irvin, out to prom. This “promposal” has been months in the making. Her original plan was to get a photo with Rapunzel, while we were in Magic Kingdom, holding a sign that posed her big question. On our final day at Magic Kingdom she was prepared to ask him to be her prom date in a creative way. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that posters were prohibited in the park. Here beautiful sign was confiscated and thrown in the trash by security so she came up with a plan B. She had her picture taken with Rapunzel, using my old polaroid camera, and then made it into a card once she got home. Last week she mailed her “promposal”…

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He received it…

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And he said “Yes!”

She wasn’t the only one with a surprise up her sleeve, however. While her secret was playing out on this end, Irvin and her best friend, Tatum, had their own surprise in the works for Molly’s 19th birthday. Irvin decided he wanted to surprise Molly by driving the four hours from Gettysburg to take her out the day after her birthday. He and Tatum collaborated and planned a magical day for their best friend. I was pulled into the plan so that I could secretly get Molly where she needed to be for the big surprise.

I kept her schedule wide open (which is no easy task!) by telling her I made plans for us to have a mother/daughter date. We left Monday morning with a plan in place. Tatum met up with Irvin after he drove 4 hours to get to our town. They headed to Walmart to get into position to surprise Molly. With the excuse of needing to grab a few things before our date, I stopped at Walmart and led her to the aisle where her friends were hiding.

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Needless to say, she was surprised and touched by their show of love.

Once I had done my duty and delivered Molly, they headed off in Irvin’s truck for a day of adventures.

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They took Molly ice skating,

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Went hiking at North Park,

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Enjoyed a special picnic lunch,

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And explored Oakland, before ending their day at the Cheesecake Factory for dessert.

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Molly returned home beaming and feeling incredibly loved by the love shown by two of her besties. ❤

I am forever grateful for my children’s friends and the friendship they share.

Sometimes life is so full of big events, that it is easy to lose sight of all the small but precious moments  that bless our life and make it special. We are blessed.

 

A little of this. A little of that..

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Time for another catch-up post.

To answer the questions of concern from those who love us and have wondered at our apparent disappearance from their lives…

Yes, we are all still alive and kicking.

No, we haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth.

Yes, we realize we haven’t been the best friends/family members these last 6 weeks.

No, we aren’t mad, sad, or hurt by something you said or did.

 And no, we are not trying to avoid you…

We are just stretched to the max and trying to keep our heads above water.

Even blogging, my favorite therapeutic outlet, has taken a backseat to the everyday tasks we are trying desperately to stay on top of…

You know those necessary irritabilities that have to occur regularly, like meals on the table and clean clothes for the family. But we are still here and still working to find our groove with the addition of another child in the family, additional activities that the kids need ushered to, appointments out the wazoo, and school work. I have never slept so well, so deeply, or so quickly as I do in this season of life. I pray we might find our rhythm again and our days will eventual settle into an upbeat, little two-step rather than this frantic, “flight of the bumblebee” freestyle we are dancing at the moment.

But I can’t complain too loudly. God has been incredibly gracious and we have witnessed the multiplying miracle, much like the loaves and fishes, with our time and energy. On paper the math doesn’t equate. How we fit so many tasks, responsibilities and obligations into a 24 hour period is nothing short of miraculous. It testifies to the Heavenly promise that God will make a way if we but faithfully answer His call to “Go and do the things that He commands.”

So outside the tasks that take priority in our lives these days, filling our calendars with schooling, tutoring, therapy, home management, sports practices. and CYF appointments, here are some of the small moments that make up our days on Patchwork Farm:

The weather has been crazy lately. In the last few weeks we have lost power multiple times due to high winds and thunderstorms. One particularly exciting storm brought down three trees in our front yard and knocked out our power for 2 1/2 days.

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It was a fun adventure at first. We lit candles and enjoyed a fun dinner and board games in the candlelight. It ceased being fun when bedtime came and my kids that are scared of the dark didn’t want to go to bed.

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The next day we ran into more problems when my cyber schooled children, who rely on electricity and internet service to do school, couldn’t log in. Our short term fast from modern conveniences was humbling and was a good reminder of how many everyday blessings we take for granted.

School is in full swing for me. I have begun BYU-Idaho’s Pathway program. I am slowly adjusting to the academic workload as I manipulate the free minutes of the day searching for the 3-4 hours of study time I need to allow each day to keep on top of my classes. I have a consistent 2 1/2 hours set aside in my schedule each morning while the kids have live classes and then make up the difference by carrying my laptop with me to ball fields and waiting rooms, taking advantage of free minutes to read and complete assignments. (School is majorly cutting into my blog time!) I am, however, loving the challenge and its been fun exercising some mental muscles I haven’t worked for a while.

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(The kids insisted on a back to school picture of Mom on the night of my first Pathway Gathering class.)

A few weeks ago Tyler and Brandon shared their first joint activity with the youth. It was the first youth activity Brandon was able to attend since he moved in a month ago and it was Tyler’s first joint activity having recently turned 12. It was fun that they were able to experience this “first” together, and the fact that they had Molly, Rusty, and Ozzie there as well made it even more fun.

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The youth leaders couldn’t have picked a better introduction activity to welcome in Brandon and Tyler than the activity they picked: Human Foosball! The high energy activity, coupled with ice cream sundaes after the game, made for an awesome night!

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Last week Miss Grace came home from school eager to show off something special.

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She called us into the kitchen and pulled from a plain white envelope this:

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Her ASL certificate!

Grace has completed the first half of the program, earning her certificate in sign language interpreting and is now working on the second half of the program which will earn her an associates degree in the same field before she transfers to a four year college. Grace worked so hard to earn this ASL interpreting certificate and we are so proud of our hard working girl!

Speaking of our “girl on the go”…

Miss Grace has kept busy this last month with a task beyond her normal workload. She volunteered to take on the task of planning a luau for her Young Single Adult ward with the help of a great committee. This undertaking was a big one but it was a challenge that played to her strengths. She had a blast getting creative and creating a dinner and dance around this fun theme. She said the night was a blast! Here are some photos of the night:

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Molly and two of her best buddies went out last Friday night to celebrate some exciting news. Molly, Tatum and Caleigh each campaigned for leadership roles in National Honor Society. Molly campaigned for the role of President, Tatum campaigned for the role of Parliamentarian, and Caleigh campaigned for the role of Historian.

Well, on Friday they each received the exciting news that they were elected to the leadership roles they were seeking. These three sweet girls make up 3/4ths of 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s new National Honor Society presidency.

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Congratulations girls!

And in final news…

Brandon has joined Tyler and Ozzie on the back of a horse. This past week Brandon began equine therapy at Glade Run Adventures in Zelienople. He was paired with Pumpkin for the lesson and the connection was immediate. It was his first time on the back of the horse and I could tell he was a bit nervous,  but any unease disappeared as soon as he climbed atop Pumpkin.

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It was an immediate connection and we soon discovered that despite lack of previous experience, Brandon was a natural.

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Like Tyler, his God-given athleticism and calm confidence made him a natural on the back of the horse. Like Tyler, he also had a way with animals. He loved it and his equine therapist commented to me at the end of the lesson, as we watched Brandon squeeze and love on Pumpkin, “This is why I do what I do.”

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I think equine therapy is going to be a great blessing in Brandon’s healing journey.

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We are happy to Announce…

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For the last 12 months my three oldest children have been volunteering their time two mornings a week at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch. This non-profit organization takes in abused and neglected horses for rehabilitation while also pairing healed horses with children who have unique needs and challenges. It is an amazing organization and serving at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has proved to be an enormous blessing for Grace, Molly and Rusty. 

This past week we had Tyler’s 16-year-old biological brother, Brandon, visiting and the older kids invited him to go with them to volunteer at the horse farm… 

 For those who haven’t been following the blog this summer, Brandon is one of Tyler’s four biological siblings.

We met Brandon for the first time 4 years ago when we gathered all of Tyler’s biological siblings together for a reunion at Patchwork Farm. After many years of being separated and losing contact with each other, they were finally reunited.

At that time, Brandon was the last sibling remaining in foster care and the hurt he carried was evident in his countenance. At the time we inquired about Brandon and whether we could be considered a possible placement, only to discover that his foster parents were in the process of adopting Brandon. We were thrilled with this wonderful news. Brandon was finally getting the forever home he deserved to have.

At our next reunion the affect of being chosen and finally having his forever home was evident on his face. He was a different child and the joy radiated from him.

Fast forward 6 months and after months of not hearing from Brandon or his adoptive parents I received the heartbreaking news that Brandon’s adoptive mother (of 9 months) had been stolen from him by cancer. My heart broke for Brandon as I mourned the loss of Tina and wept at the cruelty of this earthly life for a child who waited so long for a mother only to have her snatched away.

Over the next few years we struggled to remain in contact with Brandon. His adoptive father became sick and was in and out of the hospital which led to Brandon being moved frequently through foster homes and residential facilities. We would call and send letters and not get any response. We weren’t sure where Brandon was but Tyler continued to petition us to seek Brandon out.

(Of all Tyler’s siblings Brandon is the one Tyler feels most connected to. I think this is a natural consequence of the two of them being the last of the siblings to be adopted. Years after the other children were settled into their forever homes Tyler and Brandon continued their court-ordered monthly visits as wards of the state.)

Finally, out of the blue, we received a call from a woman who  had been assigned Brandon’s case. Once again Brandon found himself in limbo as his adoptive father is dying and has only been given months to live. (Hospice has now been brought in) This social worker had been working to create a network of support for Brandon. She’s been seeking out family (both biological and adoptive) that could be a network of support for Brandon, and as part of that search Brandon gave her our names. She reached out and asked if we would like to have contact with Brandon, would like to be a source of support, and what we would like that relationship to look like.

I explained our situation to her and shared with her the transition we were currently navigating as Ozzie returned home from residential care and we were working to find stability with this transition. I expressed our desire to have contact with Brandon and work on reconnecting him with Tyler but couldn’t commit to anything more (ie: weekend visits, etc.) until we evaluated where Ozzie and the other children were emotionally following Ozzie’s return home.

It was with baby steps we moved forward trying assess what our role in Brandon’s life was supposed to be and trying to hear God amidst the noise of “what ifs”…

Which leads us to this:

Last Tuesday I was surprised when Brandon enthusiastically jumped at the chance to wake up at 6:00 am and spend 2 hours mucking barns and feeding horses with Grace, Molly and Rusty at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch.

Like my other kids, he came home uplifted and empowered by the experience. He loved the horses and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty..

Later when sharing his experience with his social worker he expressed in a simple but powerful  way that he found he could relate to those horses he cared for that morning.

He told her, “They are just like me. They were abused and then nobody wanted them.

Yet, just like those horses, who have experienced the cruelest life has to offer and then were given a second chance,

Brandon is getting his long overdue chance at healing, hope and a family…

Here at Patchwork Farm.

Yes, you read that right. The Mccleery clan of seven will soon be a family of eight.

We are choosing to lean into, rather than run from, the discomfort of the unknown,  step out in faith, and rise to the call God has extended to our family…

Trusting that He doesn’t call the qualified but rather qualifies the Called.

And so…

We are happy to announce that our family is growing by 2 feet!!

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Two not-so-little feet!!

Please Pray with Us ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Healing through Horses

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Both Tyler and Ozzie have been on a journey to find healing through horses. For Ozzie, that therapeutic journey is just beginning, but for Tyler we are now eight months into his equine experience.

Both boys receive equine therapy through Glade Run Adventures, and although both boys work with the same therapist their sessions look very different. This is because each program is built around each client’s particular needs.

At the start of each boy’s therapeutic journey with Glade Run Adventures we sat down and discussed our goals for the program and the unique strengths and struggles of each child. The program was then tailored to meet that child’s needs.

For Tyler our goal for equine therapy was increased mindfulness, decreased anxiety, increased confidence, and trauma healing. We know that one of the most successful therapeutic tools for Tyler is animals. He connects with animals easily and is able to open up and express emotions with animals in a way that traditional talk therapy doesn’t  always work.

Tyler has found a level of comfort and confidence on the back of his horse that isn’t always seen in other areas of his life. He LOVES equine therapy and has blossomed under this form of therapeutic care.

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After eight months of lessons he is now capable and comfortable grooming his own horse, mounting and dismounting independently, walking and trotting. This last week he was thrilled to discover he had graduated from lessons in the arena to his first trail ride. This was a big deal because he is “drove” his horse without the leading of his therapist. She followed as he took the lead.

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Ozzie’s first lesson was this past Wednesday. He also has an overall goal of trauma healing but has other objectives that differ from Tyler. For Ozzie our therapeutic goals include connecting and empathizing with his horse, mindfulness, body awareness, and sensory imput. Both my boys have sensory seeking behaviors- something that is commonly seen in children from hard places- but Ozzie’s added diagnoses of autism increases the need for sensory input even more. Our hope is that we will be able to really feed that need through horse therapy. Because Ozzie’s goals are a bit different than Tyler’s goals, more of Ozzie’s lesson time will be spent off the horse and focused on grooming. By grooming an animal Ozzie will be able to learn how to connect through showing care to another.

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He will strengthen his ability to read social cues by watching the horse’s reactions. He will get bathed in a sensory rich environment as he pets, brushes and squeezes the animal. He favorite think to do is rub his face in his horse’s mane.

Equine therapy is just one more tool we are applying to help our boys find help and healing.

Here is a little more information on this therapeutic tool as taken from equestriantherapy.com:

“Equestrian therapy (also known as equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy) is a form of therapy that makes use of horses to help promote emotional growth. Equestrian therapy is particularly applied to patients with ADD, anxiety, autism, dementia, delay in mental development, down syndrome and other genetic syndromes, depression, trauma and brain injuries, behavior and abuse issues and other mental health issues.

In many instances, riders with disabilities have proven their remarkable equestrian skills in various national and international competitions. This is the reason why equestrian therapy has been recognized as an important area in the medical field in many countries.

Equestrian or equine therapy is also an effective technique for many therapists to teach troubled youth on how they learn, react and follow instructions. For example in a  beginners’ horse therapy, a student may be asked to get the horse move outside of a circle without even touching it. Students may try to clap, yell and whistle but the horse won’t heed the signal. In the same manner, parents, friends and others who are part of a troubled youth’s therapy would learn that yelling, clapping and forcing would not be the best way to make the person do something.

Why horses for therapy

Horses are the most popularly used animal for therapy although elephants, dolphins, cats and dogs may also be used. This is because horses have the ability to respond immediately and give feedback to the rider’s action or behavior. Horses are also able to mirror the rider’s emotion.

The basis of the therapy is that because horses behave similarly like human beings do in their social and responsive behavior; it is always easy for patients to establish connection with the horse.

Therapeutic benefits of equestrian training

People with cognitive, psycho-motor and behavioral disabilities have shown positive results when equestrian or equine therapy is taught correctly by certified equine therapists. Just like other therapies such as physical, occupational and speech-language therapy, people with disabilities are being helped or assisted by certified therapists to cope with their disability like regular or normal people can. However, equine therapy combines all three in such a way that the patients or students do not feel that they are actually under therapy.

In the process, equestrian or equine therapy aims for its patients or students to:

  • Build sense of self-worth, self-concept
  • Improve communication
  • Build trust and self-efficiency
  • Develop socialization skills and decrease isolation
  • Learn impulse control and emotional management
  • Set perspective

Equine therapeutic activities

What are the equine-related activities for therapeutic purposes? The activities are not limited to horseback riding. Many students may feel intimidated by the horse’s size and features and may take some time to develop trust when around the horse. So included in the therapy program are lessons on horse care, horse grooming, saddling and basic equestrian.

How does equine therapist suit the activity to the patient’s needs? The process or technique to be applied during the session depends on the type of disorder and its severity. But the primary techniques are:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Practicing activities
  • Activity scheduling
  • Play therapy
  • Storytelling and talk therapy

Watch this video from Oprah Show on how equine therapy helps an army veteran cope with post traumatic stress.

Lots of changes for Tyler

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This past month has been a big one for Tyler. He has had some “big news” moments that should be recorded for posterity so we will dedicate this blog to all the latest Tyler news…

Tyler continues to be blessed by equine therapy. Animals are one of Tyler’s greatest therapeutic tools and the effect this horse based therapy has had on his emotionally well being is astounding. He looks forward to these Saturday lessons and his skills and emotional stability have increased by leaps and bounds.

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He is currently working with a horse named Pumpkin. He outgrew Smokey (his first horse) and so his therapist was debating what horse to pair with him next. It is fascinating to observe this process. The pairing of rider and horse isn’t simply a match of size and skill but also a match of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. After graduating from Smokey his therapist paired him with Rosie. It was not a good match. His trainer felt the pairing would go one way or the other. Either it would be a match made in heaven (assuming Tyler was confident and dominant enough to lead Rosie) or it would go the other way and Rosie would walk all over Tyler (figuratively not literally 🙂 ) leaving him feeling insecure and frustrated. He wasn’t dominant enough to manage Rosie and she definitely set him back a few paces in his confidence. He is now paired with Pumpkin and the match is perfect. He is gaining confidence and connecting with her in a way he never did with Rosie.

The lesson begins with horse care as Tyler brushes down his horse, cleans her hooves, and saddles her.

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Then he climbs on and has an hour long lesson where he learns the skills of horsemanship while also doing therapeutic work with his equine therapist. He loves it and has made awesome gains.

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He now rides independently with confidence. He can stand in the stirrups, trot and canter.

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Glade Run Adventures has proven to be a great blessing in Tyler’s life!

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Tyler has also acquired a new smile in the last few weeks.

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Once again Tyler’s bottom front tooth broke. A few years ago he chipped that front tooth while on a bouncy pad at a corn maze outing. Since then he has had it repaired many times. Its location and Tyler’s natural bite has resulted in that cap breaking off time after time. The last time it happened his dentist felt it was beyond his scope of ability to fix, fearing the break was too close to the root, so I set up an appointment at Children’s Hospital’s dental department. We went in for a consultation and they had no concerns about their ability to patch it. They also took note of his two canine baby teeth that were holding firm despite the adult teeth pushing in from above and erupting through the gums just north of the firmly held baby teeth. They suggested that we pull those two baby teeth at the same time they were repairing the chipped tooth.

A few weeks ago was the follow-up appointment. Toby took Tyler. For the dental work they used laughing gas and put Tyler into a twilight sleep. Tyler left the appointment having no memory of the experience, the only evidence that anything had happened was his new and improved smile.

He came home eager to show it off and share the good news that the dentist gave him permission to have ice cream for dinner that night.

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Tyler’s look changed even more this week with the addition of glasses.

Yes, you read that right. Tyler is now in glasses, leaving this Momma as the last one standing without spectacles. Toby and all my kiddos now wear glasses in some fashion or another while I continue to hold on proudly to the bragging rights of 20/20 vision.

Last week at Tyler’s annual physical he failed his vision screening. He score 20/20 in one eye and 20/70 in the other so his pediatrician sent us for a more comprehensive eye exam. His appointment was Tuesday morning. We went in and sure enough glasses were in order.

His vision test confirmed a strong right eye, a weak left eye and a stigmatism that led to the recommendation of glasses for Tyler. These glasses won’t need to be worn 24/7 but rather for anything that requires seeing details both near and far (like  school work, computer work, movies, etc.)

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Once the need for glasses was confirmed we heading out to the display cases to pick a style.

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Tyler, who is typically pretty indecisive, knew very quickly the frames he wanted. Once he found the style he liked he didn’t want to try on any others.

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His glasses will be in on Friday and we will officially have another “four-eyes” in the family!

Tyler continue to makes strides in all areas of his life. This has  been a breakthrough year for Tyler, as he has really come into his own. His growth physically, emotionally, behaviorally, socially, and academically have been HUGE.

School has been a dream this year. The struggle is a thing of the past and we can now sit, do lessons, and really have fun with it without the usual battles, bribing, and tears (mine, not his!). It is no longer like pulling teeth. He is engaged, eager, and so much fun. Much of his success comes from the additional reading support he is getting thanks to the Children’s Dyslexia Center of New Castle and Jan Newman, his Barton Reading tutor. This week he passed his level 3 assessment and is now in Barton Reading level 4. This is a HUGE accomplishment and a reflection on how hard Tyler is working.

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Tyler has come so far. He is a delight. My days are so starkly different now than they were two or three years ago that I sometimes forget that things weren’t always this easy with Tyler.

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His is in his Renaissance, fully thriving and finally “settled.”

This past Friday he was invited to a friend’s birthday party from church. Tyler and his best friends went for pizza and laser tag to celebrate Carter’s birthday. It was the first time I was able to simply drop him off with a “Have Fun!” farewell and have no worries. He had a wonderful time.

What joy fills my heart to see my youngest thriving.

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We are so proud of you, Tyler!

What a Weekend!!

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What a full weekend we had. It was packed to the gills with projects, places to go, and things to do. It was a crazy weekend, but a productive weekend…and boy did we all sleep well Sunday night!

Here is a peek into all the craziness we crammed into a 48-hour period…

Saturday began at 7:00 am. Rusty had a bike ride scheduled with the other young men from church. They planned to meet up at 7:45 and would be gone most of the morning. The plan was to conclude their excursion at the comic book store where an annual basement blowout was being held, offering thousands of comics for only $1.oo/each.

Rusty “rolled” back home around noon, tired and happy, eager to show off his comic book finds.

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The big task of the day was canning. A friend from church found a great deal on apples that we couldn’t pass up. We bought two bushels and the plan was to spend the day turning our bushels of apples into applesauce and apple pie filling. When these plans were made I thought I’d have a whole crew of helpers in the kitchen with me for the day, but soon other opportunities began to trump canning, leaving me in the kitchen with a revolving door of helpers coming and going through the day.

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My first helper of the day was Tyler. He had a few hours until he needed to leave the house and eagerly jumped on the task of coring and peeling apples for applesauce.

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At 10:00 am he had to leave with Toby and the girls jumped into his place as second and third in command.

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Tyler and Toby were off to Pittsburgh for some unexpected fun. The previous night, while out with friends, we were offered two free tickets to a Pitt football game at Heinz field. It was decided that Toby would take Tyler. Tyler is by far the biggest football fan in the family and we knew he could use some Daddy/son time after the unsettling week he had had seeing Ozzie leave.

It was just what they both needed. They were able to escape for a few hours and enjoy some mindless fun and male bonding over football and popcorn, and they had a perfect day for it. The weather was beautiful!

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At 11:00 am I lost Grace and Molly as canning helpers when they left for an event at Gracie’s school. As part of Gracie’s American Sign Language classes, she must attend a certain number of deaf events each semester. This is something Grace looks forward to and on this particular Saturday her ASL club was hosting a tie-dye activity at the school. Grace decided to invite Molly along. Molly has struggled a bit with the life changes that have occurred in our home lately. The absence of Ozzie and seeing less of Grace due to Gracie’s busy school and work schedule, has left her feeling a bit lost. Noticing this, Grace invited Molly out for a sister date. They made plans to attend the tie-dye activity and then go to Rita’s for an Italian ice after the event was over.

Both girls had a wonderful time. The ASL club had a good turn out and everyone enjoyed getting messy. The club supplied socks for everyone to tie-dye, but participants could bring other items to tie-dye as well. Grace and Molly each brought a pillowcase to color. It was a fun activity for them to share. Molly enjoyed getting to know some of Gracie’s college friends, and enjoyed getting to use some of her ASL skills.

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At noon Rusty returned home, thanks to a kind young men’s leader who dropped him off on our doorstop, and then Rusty jumped into the fray of apple canning. At this point I was onto apple pie filling and Rusty helped me peel, core, and slice apples for the pie filling. He was a great help and my efficiency increased significantly with another set of hands in the kitchen.

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We also made a large batch of oven dried cinnamon apple slices to enjoy as snacks. As the slices slowly dried in the warm ovens the entire house took on the delicious smell of autumn.

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Around this same time Toby was heading back out of Pittsburgh to pick up the girls (after they dropped off Mimi Joy’s car that she graciously lent them for the day) and head up north for Tyler’s equine therapy.

He had another wonderful session on his horse, Smokey, and he enjoyed sharing his experience with Toby and the girls. He is a natural on the horse and we are finding the lessons to be hugely therapeutic.

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After lessons Toby and the kids made a quick stop at Baldingers Candy Shop for some sweet treats.

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It was now 3:00 pm and things were winding down in the kitchen. The apple slices were dried and the canning was complete. My legs ached and I was covered in dried, sticky, apple juice…but what a satisfying feeling it was to gaze upon the fruits of our labors!

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It also happened to be General Conference weekend, a twice annual event in our church where we have the opportunity to hear from leadership in the form of a worldwide broadcast. It is a special weekend comprised of 4 two-hour sessions that we can watch from the comfort of our own home and receive counsel, guidance and uplifting messages from inspired speakers. We try to make it an extra special experience with a fun breakfast, activities, and booklets to help the kids take notes and stay engaged.

On Sunday morning, Rusty volunteered to be in charge of breakfast. He stumbled across a recipe online that he wanted to try. It was peanut butter and jelly French toast…and it was delicious!

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While Rusty cooked breakfast, everyone else sat down to write a letter to Ozzie. This will become a regular Sunday task. My plan is to help facilitate connection between the kids through pen pal letters. There is healing that needs to occur and written letters seem a good way to foster a renewed connection in a safe and non-threatening way. The stack of letters will then be mailed one at a time through the week, creating a steady influx of mail for Ozzie, hopefully making him feel of our love and letting him know he is not forgotten.

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For General Conference, I printed out our traditional bingo game and filled a bowl with our “prizes,” as well as created note taking doodle packets for the kids to use as they watched.

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It was wonderful to spend that time as a family and receive inspired guidance and direction.

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Sunday afternoon we also had a visit with Ozzie. It couldn’t have gone any better. He is doing beautifully and this Momma’s heart overflowed with gratitude to see him so at peace. It was a joy to get that time with him to catch up and reconnect.

Sunday night we enjoyed a game night for our Family Night activity. Friends from co-op, who also are avid board gamers, lent us an escape room game they purchased. We love these sorts of games and this one was no exception. We had a blast racing the clock and working as a team to solve the puzzles needed to win the game.

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We were successful!

It truly was a non-stop, crazy weekend…

Filled to the brim with busyness…

Filled to the brim with blessings!

Equine Therapy

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In our search for therapeutic tools to help both of our adopted sons heal from the trauma of the past, we stumbled across equine therapy. It has proven to be hugely beneficial in helping patients with PTSD. Our therapists’ office happens to offer equine therapy through one of its sister branches 45 minutes away. This is a different ranch than the one that the older kids are now volunteering at two mornings a week. Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has no openings until spring and I wanted to start the boys before then, so I signed them up for a 6-week session with a certified equine therapist through Glade Run Adventures.

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Saturday was Ozzie and Tyler’s first therapy session.

(Because Ozzie is away receiving treatment for a few months, his lessons will pick back up during the winter months, while Tyler will continue with this 6-week session.)

When we arrived, the boys were each assigned a horse.

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Ozzie was paired with Rosie,

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And Tyler was paired with Smokey.

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Their first task was getting fitted for boots and helmets. Once they were geared up it was time to gear up their horses.

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The therapist walked the boys through the process of grooming their horses. This is a big part of the therapy work, as it creates connection between the rider and the horse. The boys had a good idea of what to do thanks to our visit to RYYR ranch a few weeks ago with our Family Based team.

Next, they learned how to saddle the horses and prepare them for riding.

Soon it was time to mount up and begin the riding lessons.

Since this was both boys’ first time on a horse by themselves the therapist worked on the basics…how to sit, how to hold the reins, how to communicate with the horse, and how to be respectful and kind to the animal they were riding.

Since Ozzie was on the bigger horse, and struggled a bit more with the tasks at hand, the therapists focused her attention on helping Ozzie. She walked him around the ring, while guiding him through his interactions with the horse.

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Tyler took to the lesson a bit more easily. This was due in part to him having a less stubborn and more docile horse. He found his groove quickly and was soon a pro at moving around the ring.

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Both boys did really well and LOVED the experience.

I think it is an unexpected blessing that current circumstances puts them into different 6-week classes. Their needs are very different and what will be worked on from a therapeutic perspective is vastly different. With Tyler, the therapist will focus on the PTSD and the heightened anxiety he is struggling with. With Ozzie, the focus will be on attachment, kind and respectful interactions with animals, and meeting his sensory seeking needs.

While both are signed up for equine therapy to meet vastly different needs, I am certain both will benefit from it. It was nice for them to be able to share this one lesson and connect over a shared experience that the older kids didn’t participate in.

When their lesson time was done they climbed down from their steeds, walking like cowboys from an old western. They were both feeling the effect of working muscles they never have exercised before and were a bit stiff and sore. The instructor told them that was to be expected and it would lessen over time. I couldn’t help but smile as they moseyed out of the barn bowlegged and shuffling.

Their legs may have ached more than ever, but they left with their hearts aching a little bit less…

And that is a huge blessing.